It's a samphire! Yes, but which? How to photograph them so an ID is more likely

There are lots of samphires. They are mostly greenish. Nine times out of ten if you take a flying shot of them as you gallop past they will stay in the Needs ID section of iNat for an age. Or more. Frustrating. So how to take pictures of a samphire so that someone who knows them can identify your specimen, or confirm your ID if you know what it is?
First, you need several pictures. One at least to capture the habitat. Is it intertidal or up above the tides? Inland? On the pan of a salt lake?
These Salicornia quinqueflora are clearly intertidal, growing near the mangroves, and the plants form a lawn of low growing plants that root at their nodes.

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In contrast, Sea beans (Tecticornia lepidosperma) is an upright shrub, seen here sheltering on saline soils in front of a stand of swamp paperbark.

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And check out this skinny branched samphire on a salt lake, down slope from some Allocasuarinas - it almost looks like a grazed baby Allocasuarina itself. It is Tecticornia lylei, the casuarina samphire.

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If your habitat shot captures the general morphology of the plant, well and good. If not, take another that shows whether the plant is a shrubby bush or a decumbent sward. Making a comment about height is good here, or having something in the shot that indicates relative size.

Now the closeup fun starts. It is worthwhile having something for scale in these shots too, but that may be stretching a friendship. The vegetative articles, the flowering spike, some older dried fruit. Take as many pictures as you can. If you use an app like “Mag.Light” on your phone you can get right up close and personal.

Some samphires, like this Tecticornia halocnemoides, have grey gnarly woody stems and just a few small vegetative articles at the ends of the branches.

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Some have large articles with “keels” on the “corners” of the articles, like this Tecticornia indica.

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And some have skinny vegetative articles that look like she-oak branches - this is Tecticornia lylei.

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Then there are the flowering/fruiting spikes. Here is Tecticornia lepidosperma. Look how long it is! Yes, that is an average sized hand… See how the top of the spike tapers in this species? Look further down the spike and you can see the neat arrangement of the green fleshy flowers in sets of three.

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And here is the flowering spike of Tecticornia flabelliformis, showing its separated bracts under each triad of flowers.

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Some flowering spikes are all nipply and relatively (for samphires) brightly coloured… like Tecticornia lylei

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Finally, take a poke at some of those old fruits. Do they crumble in your hands and reveal black seeds (Tecticornia pergranulata)? Do they break up into neat rings (Tecticornia pruinosa)?

Here is Waxy samphire (T pruinosa) with its fruiting spikes starting to break up.

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And here are the seeds of the Blackseed samphire, T pergranulata.

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Some samphire seeds are very fancy. These are from Tecticornia lepidosperma.

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Samphires are one group of plants that you need to take a moment with, in order to get an identification. But once you start to look closely at them, they will never look “all the same” to you again!

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I’ve never seen a samphire before! What is their native range? Thanks for introducing me.

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That was a really nice photo essay.

Wow! I did not know glassworts were so very diverse! The only one I was aware of is a tidal marsh plant with a very pleasant salty taste. I see it in a number of marshland parks around SF Bay.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/37948903

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Interesting. Had no idea what a samphire was since our U.S. counterparts to these Australian species are called glassworts or pickleweeds.

A short introductory paragraph explaining what and where and maybe how many species would be helpful.

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A wonderful writeup and photos! I didn’t know there were so many forms.

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Thanks for taking the time to write this. Very helpful!

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Hi,
They have a worldwide distibution, but I tend to focus on the Australian ones.

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@teellbee, yes, you can eat the decumbent Salicornia (Sarcocornia) species

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They have a worldwide distribution, in saline situations. There seem to be a very large number of species in Australia, compared to other places.

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That explains why I haven’t seen any. I’m not near a beach and certainly not in Australia. Just another reason why I need to visit “Down Under.”

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While I think going Down Under to find pickleweeds sounds like an excellent adventure, you needn’t necessarily go so far. They appear frequently in coastal salt marshes in the USA,e.g:.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=30&subview=table&taxon_id=52617&verifiable=any

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Good idea! Thanks!

Check out your local salt lakes too! Not just seaside…

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